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Questions Concerning Bounce Rates Still Loom

The effects that bounce rates have regarding your websites rankings have long been a topic of discussion. There’s been plenty of speculation about how they’ll affect sites, if at all.

The CEO of Moz, Rand Fishkin, and Google’s search quality senior strategist, Andrey Lipattsey, conversed about the effects that both click and bounce rates have on search engine rankings.

Fishkin explained that he’d been conducting experimental tests that included groups of people ranging anywhere from 500 to a few thousand.

Whoever was participating was asked to take out their phones, computers, tablets, etc. and enter a certain search term. When the listings for the search appeared, Rand asked that everyone click a listing at the bottom of the page and then click elsewhere within that website. He went on to study the results soon thereafter.

Fishkin had come across a ton of inconsistencies. Half of the experiments displayed a change in ranking on the SERP, and the other half didn’t.

This provokes the asking of the question…

Are Bounce Rates Affecting Your Website’s Ranking on Search Engines?

If they do, how much?

Lipattsey has come to the conclusion that it’s not the clicks and page bounces that impact the search engine rankings, it’s all the interest in those searches that affect the rankings.

Naturally, if a specific search query is gaining traction within search engines, that topic is more likely to garner the attention of Google as opposed to a single site that’s getting more clicks.

According to Lipattsev, it’s fairly simple to try and see why there was a large difference in rankings when it concerns an individual listing. However, internet-wide, it’s a lot more difficult. With that being said, what exactly is bounce rate?

The bounce rate can be best described as the portion of a webpage’s visitors that navigate their way off of that individual webpage without viewing any others affiliated with it.

Normally, people associate the phrase “bounce rate” with bad business and they’re not necessarily wrong for thinking that way. A high bounce rate essentially means that your content isn’t engaging any of your sites’ visitors, and if your site’s content isn’t high quality or very relevant, Google won’t consider it to be one of the sites deserving of a higher rank.

A very informative article published in the SEJ (Search Engine Journal) pointed out nine possible reasons as to why your site may have a high bounce rate. Some of these reasons include, improper links, irrelevant content, and poor choice of keywords. So, for the most part, higher bounce rates are detrimental to your website.

However, contrary to popular belief, high bounce rates can sometimes be indicative of a positive result. For example, high bounce rates on a “Contact Us” page – a page which serves more as a call-to-action page, where the purpose is to collect user information. So for a user to leave the site after viewing that sort of page, it would signal that they’re complying to your prompts to submit information. They filled out the form and did exactly what you wanted them to do.

If your site is either more content oriented or offers specific services and/or products, you should be aiming to have a high click-through rate as well as additional traffic to other related pages within your site.



So How About Google?

Do they keep track of your bounce rate? Will they use it to effect search rankings? To put it simply, yes…and no.

Plenty of companies and organizations do not use Google Analytics, which means that Google wouldn’t be able keep tabs on their bounce rates. Even if the analytics being used are traceable, it’s difficult to determine what the bounce rates are indicating.

It’s a difficult task to determine the reasons why someone’s spent as much time as they did on your webpage. If they spend a half hour, they could be seriously engaged with your content and appreciative, or they could’ve simply walked away from their computer for some time. Point is, it’s hard to understand.

There are plenty of things you can do to help lower your bounce rate, like offering simple navigation, avoiding too much advertising, and adding interesting and relevant content.

Considering your bounce rates may not be affecting your webpage’s ranking all that much, you’re probably curious as to what will. Well, Google unveiled it’s three main ranking factors, those being:

  • Strong Links: good links can go a long way in search rankings.
  • Quality Content: creating unique and engaging content is vital.
  • Google’s RankBrain: their AI system to help determine ranking.

Strong links and quality content have always been synonymous with good rankings. RankBrain, however, has only been recently introduced. It’s an update to Google’s algorithm that’ll ultimately help determine better results for more complex searches, specifically long-tail keywords.

RankBrain, a new AI technology, along with whatever other software currently being developed by Google could soon end the debate about bounce rates and their effect on page ranks, but it’ll be a long, tedious process.

Lipattsey believes that making bounce rata data a good metric to measure is absolutely doable, but notes it still has a while before it is.